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Posts tagged "Bus"

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High Frequency: Why Houston Is Back on the Bus

Every so often, every city should do a "system reimagining" of its bus network like Houston METRO did.

Back in 2012, Houston's bus network was in trouble. Ridership was down, and weekend ridership was especially weak. Frequent service was rare. Routes didn't go directly where people needed to go. If you wanted to get from one place outside downtown to another place outside downtown, you still had to take a bus downtown and transfer.

It was a system that had basically stayed frozen since the 1970s. And as you can surmise, the service it provided was not effective, convenient, or appealing for many types of trips.

METRO's solution was to wipe the slate clean. What would Houston's bus network look like if you designed it from scratch? By re-examining every bus route in the city, talking to bus riders, and making tough decisions, METRO reinvented its bus network. The new system features better, more efficient routes, shorter wait times, and increased service on nights and weekends. The changes were essentially revenue-neutral -- Houston now runs a better bus system on the same budget, because it optimized the use of existing resources.

This Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, the first in a series of four films looking at transit innovation in American cities.

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Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

When it comes to smart transportation options and city planning, Zurich can credibly claim to be the global champ. This Swiss city has enacted a number of policies and practices that have produced streets where people come first. Getting around and simply experiencing the city is a pleasure.

How did they do it? In a 1996 city decree referred to as "a historic compromise," Zurich decided to cap the number of parking spaces. From then on, when new parking spaces were built anywhere in Zurich, an equivalent number of spaces had to be eliminated elsewhere within the city limits. Many of the new spaces that have been built since then come in the form of underground garages, which allow for more car-free areas, plazas, and shared-space streets.

Zurich also has an intricate system of more than 4,500 sensors that monitor the number of cars entering the city. When that number exceeds the level Zurich's streets can comfortably accommodate, all cars are halted on highways and main roads into the city until congestion is relieved. Thus, there is never significant traffic back-up in the city itself.

It's tough to top the city's transit options. Zurich has a network of comfortable commuter trains and buses, plus the magnificent gem of the city: its 15-line tram system. Trams run everywhere frequently and are easy to hop on and off. The coordination of the lines is a wonder to behold. And it's the preferred way to travel in the city center -- business men in suits traveling to the richest banks in the world ride next to moms and skateboarders.

That's only the beginning of some of the great things going on in Zurich. Bike mode share is now 6 percent and climbing. People flock to the amazing parks and rivers that have been cleaned up. Car-free and car-lite streets are filled with restaurants and people at all times of day. If you can never get to Zurich yourself, I hope you'll be able to experience a bit of what it's like via this Streetfilm.

Note: All stats in the video are from the Mobility and Transport Microcencus of 2010 by the Federal Government of Switzerland. The survey on travel behavior has been conducted every five years since 1974.

StreetFilms
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Perfect Match: Metro Vancouver Melds Bikes and Transit

Last month Streetfilms took a look at how Vancouver is making big strides toward becoming a safe bicycling city. As we learned while in town for the Velo-City 2012 conference, the city government is not alone -- it has a great partner in the regional transportation agency, TransLink, which provides transit service for 22 regional municipalities, plus funding for a network of major roads and cycling infrastructure and programs. TransLink views cycling as a complement to the agency's trains, buses, and ferries. In this follow-up, Streetfilms got to speak to TransLink officials about their vision for a transit system that works in tandem with active transportation, and to see some of the ways they're using bike infrastructure to bolster transit ridership.

 

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Take Transit

Zozo is a large purple creature who likes green transportation and public spaces.  Want to learn more about Zozo? Tune in to The Search for the Zozo for a little Zozo primer.  Also, visit Streets Education to find Zozo resources for teachers.

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The Case for Bike Racks on NYC Buses

Over the last ten years (or more) just about every major city in the U.S. has added bike-carrying capacity to their buses. While cities like Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco can boast 100% of their bus fleet sporting bike racks, NYC comes in at 0% - the only one in The Alliance for Biking & Walking's 2010 Benchmarking report.

This probably comes as no surprise to any cyclist from NYC who travels an ample amount, but what is shocking is this fact quietly goes unmentioned in NYC. We cannot recall a single news story or push to get bike racks anywhere in the last ten years.

Of course, there are reasonable assumptions one can make why NYC has not tried out some program. First and foremost: the NYC MTA subway system already allows bikes 24 hours a day.  It's an excellent benefit for sure, but there are many regions of the five boroughs that are not easily within reach of a train. If we want to encourage multi-modalism, we need seriously think about that.

Then there is a barrage of others: cyclists will be too slow to load, bikes might fall off the racks, cost, maintenance, etc, but after viewing our Streetfilm you'll see there really isn't a valid excuse not to.

So we think it's time that the MTA and the city to consider a few pilot programs to put some bike racks on some routes. Of course, we are not talking about places like Manhattan or most parts of Brooklyn but we feel there are some great candidates that would yield good results.  Look here:

  • Anywhere in Staten Island.
  • Eastern Queens.
  • Parts of The Bronx.
  • Any buses that cross bridges without cycle paths including the Verrazano-Narrows, The Whitestone and The Throggs Neck bridges.
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The Slowest Bus in New York City

New York City has some of the slowest bus service in the country. The 9th annual Pokey and Shleppie Awards, given by NYPIRG's Straphanger Campaign and Transportation Alternatives, shine a spotlight on this unfortunate fact by recognizing the slowest and most unreliable buses in the Big Apple. Tune in above to see which routes earn the oh-so-prestigious award.

We won't spoil the surprise by telling you the winner, but even despite speeds slower than walking, the slowest route in New York City carries 3.7 million passengers annually. The runner-up, the M14, carries 12 million riders a year. Higher speeds would not only help all those New Yorkers get to work or spend more time with their families, they'd also surely increase ridership.

That's why the Straphangers are organizing support for Select Bus Service along Brooklyn's Nostrand Avenue. The current limited bus service there, the B44, ranked as the fourth-slowest bus in the borough -- not quite a Pokey Award winner, but a real contender. With innovations like off-board fare payment, dedicated bus lanes, and transit signal priority, the B44's 13.3 million annual passengers could soon face a far faster ride. In the Bronx, Select Bus Service on Fordham Road improved bus speeds by 20 percent and ridership by 30 percent. In the first month of operation, Select Bus Service on First and Second Avenue cut trip times by 14 to 19 percent.

StreetFilms
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Voices from the Rail~Volution (2010)

Streetfilms was out in Portland at this year's Rail~Volution 2010 trying to get a pulse on the transportation world by talking to a healthy dose of this year's attendees which includes advocates, bloggers, transportation planners, industry spokespeople and members transportation agencies across the country.  Among those we heard from was Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who helped push Rail~Volution - now in its 20th year - to national prominence in 1995.  Well over a thousand folks attended the four-day event.

In addition, almost 500 of them came to Portland's famous Bagdad Theater to watch a program of short films on the big screen, eight of which were Streetfilms!  Our fan base and influence continues to grow as Streetfilms is looked to as an inspiration and educational tool among our peers.  It's a great feeling.

StreetFilms
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Making Muni Faster and More Reliable Through Bus Stop Consolidation

A common complaint among Muni riders is that the bus simply stops too often. It turns out they may be on to something: according to transit experts and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates Muni, consolidating some bus stops is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to speed up Muni. That's the subject of this film, the second in a series on making Muni faster and more reliable.

Muni's stops are actually much closer than its own standards advise. Only 17 percent of Muni's bus stops fall within the recommended range of 800-1,000 feet (closer on steep hills); 70 percent are closer than that. As SFMTA staff has pointed out in the past, nationwide research shows most people are willing to walk a quarter-mile to the nearest bus stop.

The SFMTA's first attempt to consolidate stops -- a pilot project on the 38-Geary in the Tenderloin -- turned out poorly for the agency. Residents got the Board of Supervisors to block the proposal, pointing out that it appeared to speed up service for wealthier commuters from the Richmond by forcing Tenderloin residents to walk farther. Now, the SFMTA hopes it can dispel that impression by proposing a comprehensive consolidation plan, at least on the city's busiest routes.

In the film, we hear from the person responsible for developing that plan, Julie Kirschbaum, project manager for the SFMTA's Transit Effectiveness Project, Livable City's Tom Radulovich, San Francisco Transit Riders Union organizer Dave Snyder, and Senior Action Network's Pi Ra.

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Making Muni Faster and More Reliable by Speeding Up Boarding

Some of the most important changes for San Francisco's Muni system are also the simplest ones. In the first of our five-part series on creating a faster Muni, we focus on bus stop boarding. By instituting a prepaid boarding system called proof-of-payment, Muni could dramatically quicken the boarding process, speed service and improve reliability.

Under the system, riders who have a monthly Fast Pass, a transfer, or a TransLink card could board through any door on the bus. Instead of showing the driver proof-of-payment, passengers just hold on to their transfer or ticket, and fare inspectors randomly board vehicles to check for payment. That's already how it works on Muni's light rail vehicles when they run on the street, which has led to faster boarding times and lower fare evasion rates.

StreetFilms
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Hudson River Crossings: Improving Bus Capacity

Over 315,000 bus riders cross the Hudson River each weekday. More than half of these bus riders travel through the Lincoln Tunnel but the exclusive bus lane that only operates during the morning rush hour is at capacity.

Check out our latest production to find out more information about these crossings and what the Tri-state Transportation Campaign recommends for improving these bus crossings. You can download their full report here (pdf). Animation by Hugh Gran and design by Carly Clark.

StreetFilms
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Seattle’s Bus Chick on the Rewards of the Riding Life

Carla Saulter pens a very eclectic blog called Bus Chick, Transit Authority, which you can find on the Seattle Post Intelligencer's website.

Carla, who lives car-free with her husband and young daughter, is all about riding transit and inspiring others to do the same. The bus has indeed figured prominently in her life: she met her husband on the bus; riding has provided her with a creative outlet for stories and interesting anecdotes; and she named her first child for the most renowned bus rider in history.

I was bowled over when I heard that Carla actually went by bus to give birth at the hospital (not to mention to also come home afterward). I knew then and there that I needed to profile her. I just wish I lived closer to the Bus Chick family so I could ride the bus with them more often.

StreetFilms
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HOP, SKIP, and JUMP aboard a Boulder Bus

Welcome to an innovative way of thinking about transit: ask your passengers to design routes, let them name them, and decide the frequency in which they operate. That's what Boulder, Colorado does and they sure seem to have discovered the right way to make bus riding fun and enticing!

Boulder boasts seven high-frequency bus lines with catchy, character-verb names like: STAMPEDE, DASH, BOUND, and BOLT, with all of the buses having their own color scheme and identity. It all started back in 1989 when Boulder endeavored to provide a real alternative to the car for its downtown commuters and as a result gave residents direct input into the process. In addition to creating comfy, frequent, pleasant buses, the city also instituted the Eco Pass, a transit card that allows residents to ride buses system-wide for free - more than doubling transit use between 1995 and 2005, from 15% to 34%.

Not that anyone is asking, but my suggestion for a new bus name: the ZIGZAG. Who wouldn't want to ride that?

StreetFilms
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Bay Ridge Express Bus Riders Discuss Congestion Pricing

StreetFilms joined up with Transportation Alternatives' Executive Director, Paul Steely White as he discussed congestion pricing with Express Bus commuters in Bay Ridge where riders could use a faster commute and less-crowded buses. White outlined how congestion pricing would decrease traffic in Bay Ridge and offer better transit as he listened to the commuters' concerns.

A poll released by Quinnpiac today reports that a resounding 89 percent of respondents believed traffic congestion was a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. However, New Yorkers are divided on how to accomplish reductions.